Is alcoholism a disease or is it a choice that you make? This has been the debate for many years with both sides providing documented research to support their argument. Those who stand on the side of “choice” believe that alcohol users can choose to stop by making better choices for short and long-term goals. On the other hand, supporters of the disease model suggest that an individual cannot cease their alcohol use anymore and need help from alcohol addiction treatment services.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, alcoholism is described as a primary disease that lasts for a long time and is influenced in its development and manifestations by genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors. The disease frequently worsens and ultimately results in death. It is characterized by distortions in thinking, the most prominent of which is denial, imparted control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol in spite of the consequences, and use of alcohol. Each of the symptoms could be present all the time or only occasionally.
A Mental Illness
According to the DSM-III, alcoholism is a type of substance abuse disorder because mental, as well as emotional, and behavioral symptoms can be present before the physical manifestation of the disease. The signs consist of a loss of control and an inability to stop drinking, despite the fact that the individual is experiencing increasingly dangerous consequences.
A Physical Disease
Alcoholism is a progressive physical disease. Indications of intoxication may include the following
- Impaired reflexes and balance issues
- Slurred speech
- Stomach pain
- Blackouts/loss of consciousness
When an individual reaches a level of intoxication that may result in slowed breathing, they have reached the point at which they are at risk for alcohol poisoning. It is also possible for a person to pass out and suffocate as a result of vomiting due to the effects of intoxication.
Ascites is a condition that can be caused by the long-term physical effects of alcoholism. This condition occurs when the abdominal cavity fills with fluid as a result of liver disease or failure. Damage to the nervous system, as well as the heart and the brain, are also among the list of other physical effects.
Indications of Abuse
Signs that an individual may be an alcoholic include:
- Neglecting family and work/school responsibilities
- Display of anger which may result in physical violence, as well as other emotional outbursts
- Risky behavior that may result in legal or financial repercussions
- Inability to control the amount they drink
Untreated, an individual struggling with alcohol abuse may progress to addiction. Depending on the severity of their use, quitting on their own may be very difficult. Suddenly stopping consumption can result in alcohol withdrawal. An individual suffering from withdrawal symptoms may experience:
- Uncontrollable shakes/tremors
- Extreme anxiety/agitation
Long-term alcohol abuse/addiction can result in serious health consequences without the help of a medical detox facility and/or rehab treatment program. Regardless of which side of the argument: choice or disease, an individual stands on, there are physical attributes involved, and it is important, even critical to an individual’s health and well-being, that they seek the appropriate help.